a tale of two twitties

a tale of two twitties

Context.  Context matters.  Context explains the larger meaning of the things we see and hear and brings into focus events too faraway to see clearly.  Context changes a hero into a war criminal and an ice cube to a something that can sink the Titanic. Context lets us hear an honest whisper through the hum of a million lies.

We live in a post-context reality.  Not post-truth like the pundits claim, but post-context. We could easily judge the truth of things we read and hear if only we could put them in context.  But context takes time and the news cycle happens fast – too fast for the average person keep up with. Offhand remarks are replayed in a loop, their context long ago forgotten. Tweets written in a moment live on forever in infamy.   Viral stories become runaway trains. And since we’re drowning in information who has the time to go back and thoroughly investigate the origin story of something potentially inflammatory?  Chumps, that’s who. People with no lives who have nothing better to do with their days. It’s so much easier to just hop on the bandwagon and let the flames of outrage burn higher.

When Kevin Williamson got fired from The Atlantic, I thought it was crap.  I wrote about it here: https://atomicfeminist.com/2018/07/19/we-need-to-talk-about-kevin/  But at the same time, my knee jerk reaction is that it was questionable and concerning policy for the New York Times to hire Sarah Jeong given her tweet history.  

I try pretty hard to keep a fair and balanced viewpoint.  I don’t think I live in a bubble and I don’t believe I am a rabid partisan, either.  Because I do try to hold myself to a higher standard, I really wanted to unravel the logic underlying my knee jerk feelz to see if I was onto something or if I was just a hypocrite.  And in doing so, I have concluded that the difference between Kevin Williamson and Sarah Jeong is context. The context is big and unruly and very likely impossible to unravel in one innocent lil thinkpiece.  But I’ll try, because in our divided nation, context matters more than any of us have realized.

There’s an expression that I really like.  It’s this: “Two buttheads met and they butted heads.”   Meaning that sometimes in life, two jerks or groups of jerks have a head-on collision and there’s a really huge explosion in which both parties were at fault and no one walks away from the flames unscathed putting on their cool sunglasses while a rock soundtrack plays in the background.  Sometimes there are no innocent victims. Sometimes, everyone implodes and everyone deserves it. Sometimes, two buttheads just kinda…butt heads. And let me just get that out of the way now. I think Kevin Williamson was an immensely unhelpful douche for saying what he said and I think Sarah Jeong was also an immensely unhelpful douche for saying what she said.  They’re both guilty of pot-stirring when the pot is bubbling along just fine without their input, thanks ever so.

BUT.  It is entirely possible to find people basically assholes but at the same time believe that they have the right to exist and say whatever they want.  It is also possible to not like what these people have to say, and yet still choose to listen to their assholery, or at least coexist with it, because words don’t kill people.  Additionally, places of employment should not have to feel obligated to hire or fire people who have expressed problematic viewpoints.  Again, one can think that these places of employment are right or wrong to do so, even as we defend overall their right to employ who they wish.  Our opinions on any or all of these things may – indeed WILL – vary due to circumstances.  Because context. Different situations have different context and context matters.  

In one corner, we have Kevin Williamson, who has said some controversial stuff but worst of all, the realio-trulio dealbreaker was that on two known occasions in 2014, one Tweet and one podcast https://www.vox.com/2018/4/5/17202182/the-atlantic-kevin-williamson-twitter-abortion-death-penalty said that even though he didn’t really believe in the death penalty, if abortion was made illegal, it would be murder, and thus would be subject to the death penalty.   Hanging, he said, would be too good for them. Ok. He’s an offensive guy. He’s certainly offended me before https://atomicfeminist.com/2017/10/25/hit-the-road-joad/

I don’t find the things Kevin says to be always or even usually helpful to the greater dialogue but he has made me think about some things that I hadn’t thought about before.  

Then we have Sarah Jeong, who has said all this stuff.   Please read this entire thread, because context matters. https://twitter.com/nickmon1112/status/1025437806775226368?lang=en  Jeong is clearly making a concerted effort to be consistently and openly offensive over a period of several years.  This is not an offhand, spur of the moment remark she let slip a couple of times years ago, this is hundreds of tweets over a long period of time, this is an argument she is deliberately constructing for public consumption.  And you can tell me all about how this was countertrolling, sarcasm, etc etc etc, that there was a larger point she was making, and I actually fully agree. I see and understand what she was going for with all that and many of her larger points weren’t wrong.   Just like the writing of Kevin Williamson, the tweets of Sarah Jeong made me think about things in ways I hadn’t thought of before. I don’t find the way she said them to be particularly helpful to the larger cultural debate, but I did certainly think after reading these tweets in a way I hadn’t before. 

The issue is not what Sarah Jeong said.  Full stop. The issue is context. The issue is conflating one tweet and an offhand remark in a podcast with YEARS of tweets and deriding anyone who dares to say “ya know, these things really aren’t quite the same thing at all” as hypocritical.  But Williamson and Jeong aren’t the same thing and it seems extremely duplicitous when people say that they are. The contexts were totally different, and given that kajillions of people then went out and wrote pretty involved thinkpieces passionately defending Sarah Jeong because racism and explaining the greater context of her tweets (when the Scooby Gang unmasked the villain, it was pesky Old Man White Supremacy the entire time!) ya can’t tell me that most of the people sounding off on this don’t understand the notion of context.  

So that leaves me wondering if hypocrisy has been weaponized just like everything else and I am sad to conclude that yeah, it kinda has.

But that’s a thinkpiece for a different day.  Today is about two buttheads butting heads and the greater context in which that occurred.  Am I correct in thinking that what happened to Kevin (where he was punished for free speech) was kinda shitty and what happened with Sarah (where she wasn’t) is kinda troubling?  Can I have those two opinions at the same time without being a huge hypocrite – not using the weaponized definition of hypocrite where everyone on the right is one and no one on the left is, but using my own definition of hypocrisy?  

I’m totally ok with what Sarah Jeong, private citizen, was saying on Twitter.  I’m not saying that she should be banned from society, and I’m 100% NOT saying our girl SJ shouldn’t work somewhere in media making an exorbitant amount of money.  But the New York Times is not just any online magazine. The New York Times is supposed to be America’s pre-eminent news source. I have a golden vision of journalism as a force of good in my heart and mind and the New York Times is enthroned at the top of the pantheon as a wise and fair source of daily news for all America.  

The Atlantic is also there in that pantheon as well – it’s actually my fave news source and I read it most days, far more often than I read the NYT.  But The Atlantic isn’t a daily paper where people go to get their day’s news. The Atlantic is a news magazine, an amalgam of writers from a lot of different schools of thought – like one big editorial page.  The Atlantic is made up of lots of people with lots of opinions and worldviews and backgrounds putting out a unified product. Those of us who read it know that going in and don’t expect a lack of bias from their writers. In fact, the bias is kind of the point; you’re reading editorials and not straight news.  Kevin Williamson at The Atlantic seems more natural a fit than Sarah Jeong at the New York Times. And Jeong is not just a writer at the NYT, she was hired to be on the EDITORIAL BOARD. That means she decides what news is fit to print!

It just seems sort of bizarre that anyone with a history of aggressively giving offense to an entire group of people and expressing opinions that seem at least to me, extreme, regardless of how she intended them, should be hired by a media outlet that is supposed to be unbiased, fair, trustworthy.   A media outlet that is supposed to be fully committed to giving America real news and truth and yes, accurate context, in a world in which those things seem to be under attack from all comers. The NYT is supposed to be fighting off fake news and truthiness like Neo in the middle of an army of Agent Smiths.  In that light, hiring Sarah Jeong seems kinda like putting a fox in charge of the henhouse, doesn’t it??  Journalists and public figures have been dragged on Twitter and even fired from allegedly “unbiased” media outlets for far, far less egregious statements than Jeong’s (when they were on the incorrect side of the liberal agenda, that is). And it has happened so often I’m not even going to go dig up links because either you’ve seen this happen repeatedly or else you’re not paying attention because your mind is already made up and wouldn’t read the links anyway.

Isn’t bias in journalism bad?  I mean that’s the story I’ve heard – Fox News is like SUPER bad because they are partisan and partisanship in journalism is like, the worst and stuff, and so Fox News should be more neutral, you know, more like the New York Times.  Except for that pesky notion that a lot of people, even eminently reasonable ones like me don’t really find the New York Times to be neutral in that “journalists should be neutral” kinda way. That’s why it’s so easy for Donald Trump to get people cheering when he criticizes them – because many already perceive the NYT to be heavily biased.  It’s not exactly like they’re the Switzerland of newspapers, come on.  

It feels very weird to me when a group of people are telling me out of one side of their mouths that bias in journalism is this terrible thing because Fox News and then the very next second one of the most prestigious newspapers, like, in human history, goes out of their way to hire someone – to their editorial board! – who is clearly uberbiased.

Democracy dies in darkness, people.  The truth is more important now than ever!  And by the way, white people stink like wet dogs.  Y u no respect my authority?

Almost feels as if someone realized “ok wow these rightwing whackjobs are trying to beat us at our game, now they’re all like pretending to get offended by so-called racist shit now, GAWD, don’t they know it’s impossible to be racist against white people, ok, whatever, guess they’re not accepting our always-changing definition of the word racism, FFS, so let’s drop the pretense that we aren’t totally biased and go balls deep in it now.”  Since that last sentence was a fun trainwreck that I don’t want to delete, I’ll rephrase: Since some mostly conservative people no longer blindly, silently accept the double standard where it’s fine for everyone else to be perpetually offended except for them, and are actually calling leftists out on their hate speech, the NYT (supposed to be unbiased) has decided to embrace its bias with both arms, both legs, and a prehensile tail. And I’m supposed to hold this up against a dude who said a couple times, with a lot of hemming and hawing, his opinion on something.  A dude who was actually HIRED to write a certain viewpoint by the Atlantic, a mag whose whole entire genie gig entails having a lot of writers of a lot of different viewpoints. Srsly?

Nah.  It’s not the same thing.  Stop trying to tell me it’s the same thing.  Because I know the context and you aren’t fooling me. 

Let’s talk about what Kevin Williamson actually even said.  He said that he was torn on capital punishment but IF one wanted to make abortion illegal, one would have to treat it like any other homicide.  And he also said “hanging’s too good for them” which seems shocking until one understands that Williamson was an unwanted baby, given up for adoption, frequently told as a boy by his adoptive mother that he should have been aborted.  He has wondered publicly if abortion had been legal at the time of his birth, if he would have even been born. Kevin Williamson is entitled to have a complicated, yes even messy opinion on the issue of abortion, just as much as Sarah Jeong is entitled to have a complicated, yes even messy opinion on racism.  

The FACT is, if we as a nation would choose to make abortion illegal, we would have to come to terms with the need for punishment, which we may not be ok with.  Kevin Williamson’s OPINION – at least his opinion he expressed twice in 2014 – is that in the case of women who have abortions, “hanging’s too good for them”. I’ve used that expression a few times, like about people who abuse animals, for instance.  I did not literally mean that I wanted people who have harmed animals to be rounded up and hanged. I wasn’t building a gallows in my backyard or encouraging people to go out and round up animal abusers. I just read a liberal acquaintance publicly calling for people who enabled sex offenders like Larry Nassar, to be hanged – not even the sex offenders themselves, but enablers.  And amazingly, I did not dial 911 to report my acquaintance for making threats.

“Hanging’s too good for them” is a fucking expression, people. It’s a thing people say to reflect their opinion that something someone has done is really, really bad. Not a call to arms, not a demand for public policy, an expression like “Are you working hard or are you hardly working?”

I mean really – when someone asks “How’s it hanging” you don’t immediately assume OMG this person is literally suggesting I am hanging Cousin It, do you?

Williamson wasn’t saying that women who have had abortions should be rounded up and hanged, he wasn’t saying that the death penalty was a good idea – he actually said he was “squishy” on it, if I recall his exact words.  He wasn’t even saying that abortion should be illegal. He was saying that IF we were to take that step, here’s the logical followthrough of taking that step, and I think that is a valuable point to make. Particularly to conservatives who often call (IMO) quite recklessly for abortion to be made illegal without thinking through what a world with illegal abortion would actually look like.

Contrary to popular belief, one can be both adamantly pro-life and have a reasonable and realistic view of the lengths it would take to make abortion illegal.  Williamson wrote thoughtfully and reasonably about the subject here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/kevin-williamson-the-punishment-i-favor-for-abortion/2018/04/25/5001c6cc-48c5-11e8-8b5a-3b1697adcc2a_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.b1d61f91e012  I am not a fan of abortion either, but would never make it illegal due to the costs to civil liberties and I’ve written about that here: https://ordinary-times.com/2017/04/18/the-tomiknockers/  It is clear to me Kevin Williamson has done quite a lot of deep thinking about this topic and he has a very nuanced opinion on it.  When you look at his statement in the context of his personal history and other things he’s written, not to mention simple good sense, it comes off not as the call to action that some were disengenuously claiming it to be, but as far more a message (warning) to conservatives. 

Above all else, what Kevin Williamson is, is an internal critic of conservatism. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/04/a-dissent-concerning-kevin-williamson/484052/

Williamson’s deeper message, for those who would bother to listen instead of running off to don The Handmaid’s Tale cosplay outfits, is that conservatives cannot have it both ways.  Conservatives can’t call for abortion to be criminalized without first wrestling with the consequences – real, actual, living breathing women would have to be punished for having abortions to the furthest extent of the law.  His point was valid and valuable; beyond that, both corporal punishment and abortion rights are freely debated political topics that a political journalist really ought to be able to express opinions on, even unpopular ones, because they’re being actively debated in the public sphere.

Most of Jeong’s statements had literally NOTHING to do with valid political discourse. Williamson at the least was discussing real political subjects that politicians and journalists have debated openly in the public sphere for decades – the death penalty and criminalizing abortion. Williamson was discussing serious issues that politicians may or may not enact into laws that will then be enforced.  Jeong was saying she takes joy in being mean to elderly white men and that white people should live underground like goblins.

Kevin Williamson was engaging in political speech.  Sarah Jeong was engaging in divisive personal attacks against an entire race of people in the guise of humor. She can say whatever the hell she would like on a variety of topics; she doesn’t need to limit herself to political issues, of course.  And of course, the New York Times can hire her despite her having said those things. God bless America. But it is not the same thing as Kevin Williamson because of the context.  So that leaves me wondering how can millions of people call ME a hypocrite for thinking it’s bad form for a journalist to be fired for having an opinion on a legitimate political topic while defending derogatory statements (and again, there were hundreds of them, dating back years) that have nothing whatever to do with political issues?

Thus I have concluded I am not a hypocrite. A journalist who is expressing unpopular opinions on actual topics in the political sphere deserves to be treated with at the least, equal regard to someone who may call themselves a journalist but is deliberately trying to troll and offend.  If you believe in free speech, free discourse, and the concept of a pluralistic society I simply believe you have got to respect ALL speech, period, end of story.

Gobs of people came forth to write thinkpieces full of mental gymnastics defending Sarah Jeong.  Here’s one of many: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/8/3/17648566/sarah-jeong-new-york-times-twitter-andrew-sullivan  Thoughtfulness and sympathetic reads don’t seem to be in short supply for Sarah’s POV, even among people I genuinely like and respect, and it’s really quite concerning to me that the same people who would bend over backwards to defend Jeong’s freedom of speech, and the NYT’s right to hire whoever they want, seem to have that sympathy dry up completely when it’s someone whose politics they happen to disagree with.

Now some would say that we are living in desperate times and desperate times call for desperate measures.  We have a madman in charge of the nation and maybe, just maybe things like fairness and freedom of speech have to be less important than #resisting and so sticking up for the dubious rights of loudmouth blowhards like Kevin Williamson simply has to take a back seat for a while.  Every day I am told by people who know these things, like the New York Times for instance, that things are worse than ever in this country and Trump’s rhetoric is to blame.  Here’s one article of many. https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/the-trump-effect-how-hateful-rhetoric-is-affecting-americas-children-123427/  All of us, including precious, precious children, are being harmed by Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric.  Because Trump is normalizing hatespeech and disrespect!

Why, Trump is even attacking the sacred media itself! At the end of July, July 20 to be exact, the owner of the Gray Lady (that’s the New York Times, y’all) implored that vile villainous venomspewer Trump to stuff a sock in his antimedia blather before someone actually got HURT by his naughty naughty words.  Here’s an article from July 29 about it. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-pol-trump-media-20180729-story.html  By the first of August, the NYT had hired Sarah Jeong.  https://www.nytco.com/sarah-jeong-joins-the-timess-editorial-board/  

Anyone else got whiplash?

So let me get this straight.  Trump is bad because his words are inflammatory and inflammatory speech could inspire hatred and trigger action, right?  Trump is bad because his words could have a ripple effect that could normalize rudeness and eat away at civility, right? But Sarah Jeong wrote inflammatory things for YEARS and yet the most prestigious newspaper in the country hiring her was ok because…why exactly again? Can someone please explain to me how these two viewpoints can coexist in any way unless there is a huge double standard for liberals vs. conservatives?  If inflammatory words from respected authority figures can truly inspire hatred and trigger action, if they can truly destroy the very fabric of our peaceful society by normalizing rudeness and ugly language, why is it ok for inflammatory words – indeed, real hate speech – to be tolerated, nay, ENDORSED, by the New York Times?

Again, and againandagainandagainandagain what these supposed bastions of truth and honesty are showing me is that where the New York Times is concerned, anything is fine when it’s done by the left. Perpetual outrage, getting journalists fired over speech that falls well within the realm of the political, defending the most heinous and outrageously extreme language – all totally kewl coming from left of the aisle.  All while clucking their tongues and rending their clothes over the right’s rhetoric.

Isn’t Sarah Jeong – even if, as she says, that she was just countertrolling – normalizing anti-white-people rhetoric?  It sure seems like it to me. I believe fully in free speech but I do have to agree that the more people in positions of authority talk in inflammatory and derogatory ways, the more it spreads to everyone else.  So if Trump’s vicious verbal diarrhea is bad on July 20, how can you defend Sarah Jeong on August 1 with any credibility at all?

And ya wonder why crowds cheer when Donald Trump lambastes the media.  They cheer because this IS bias plain and simple and it is freaking obvious and the mass denial coming from millions of people on the left given the larger context is absolutely terrifying.  Leftists are telling us – and not only right wing whackaroos, but just normal everyday people like me who would prefer to not pay any attention to politics – that the rules don’t apply to those on the left, they apply only to those on the right, all the while pretending that the rules are fair and the playing field is level and the sky is green and up is down.  We are told that the concerns of conservatives are “fever dreams”, mass hallucinations brought on by one too many Alex Jones shows, there is no persecution going on here, no double standard, nope nu-uh none whatsoever and a woman who wrote hundreds of disgusting and in my opinion, downright frightening tweets over the course of years has the God-given right to sit on the editorial board of the most prestigious, respected newspaper in American history.   All this is somehow absolutely a-ok and I should continue to fully respect and trust that newspaper and further, I should believe that any division in our nation is solely because of Trump.

Hey media fucktards, a recap – YOU got Donald Trump elected firstly by giving him tons and tons and TONS of free publicity whilst simultaneously running down, even publicly humiliating all the legit Republican candidates because you thought Hillary would easily defeat Trump.  But that wasn’t the only way you created Trump. No, no. You created, elevated, and elected Trump by scaring millions of American people about the intentions of the left. That’s right, people out here in the Heartland are terrified of the liberal movement right now.  People on the right, and even in the center, are scared by the left’s behavior and rhetoric (and if you don’t get why, please go reread Sarah Jeong’s tweets). So when we look at our beloved American journalistic institutions like the Atlantic and the New York Times and see them embracing leftist extremism while simultaneously practicing censorship of people who they politically disagree with, it’s concerning.  Highly concerning. I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to see it, either, and when people I otherwise like and respect go all perplexed and say “I simply cannot see what anyone on the right could possibly have to be scared about” in this environment, that only troubles my troubled mind even more so.

Because it feels to me like this is a concerted effort to wage a surreptitious war against the right. Sarah Jeong is just another data point that this is fer realz, that this cold slithery feeling I have in the pit of my belly when I think about the future is entirely justified.  Scared people tend to circle the wagons and start embracing aggressive tactics and strongman-types. It isn’t because they want to, it isn’t that they necessarily agree with the strongman on everything all the time. It is because they feel that they have to, because if one side is secretly sharpening pitchforks and lighting torches while the other side is off chasing butterflies with their John McCain memorial butterfly net, that’s an imbalance of power and intentions that can’t be rationally ignored.  

The weirdest, mind-bogglingest we’re-living-in-crazyland thing about all this is that many liberal women claim to be scared that Kevin Williamson and guys (and gals, because in my pretty extensive experience in this arena, women are more pro-life than even the pro-lifeiest of men) like him really, truly have plans to hang women who have had abortions (or put gays in concentration camps or whatever the phantasmagorical phreakout of the week is) even though there’s no evidence that anyone ever intended to do that – like literally, none whatsoever – and plenty of evidence to the contrary.  All this while simultaneously telling me to ignore the NYT hiring someone…for their editorial board…who has hundreds of tweets over several years saying I should be “cancelled”, that I shouldn’t breed, that my opinions are like a dog’s urine on a fire hydrant, that my sons should be killed, and lots of other really awful things because it was all just a big ol’ trolly joke or something maybe I guess.

I’m not laughing.

This context thing.  It matters. U guys want to play this game where when the context suits you, it’s all about the context, and when it doesn’t, it’s forgotten.

But I cannot reconcile in my heart and mind on the one hand watching millions of people having a hysterical meltdown after a free and fair election, rioting in the streets, burning people in effigy, pretending that The Handmaid’s Tale and The Hunger Games are coming true because they selected a terrible candidate who ran a bad campaign and barely even lost despite all that, with what is actively happening to conservatives all across America right now this very minute.  Conservative journalists like Kevin Williamson are fired for something they said 2 times, years ago. Neil Gorsuch was criticized for something that was in his high school yearbook and held accountable for things that his mother had said 70 years ago. Lather, rinse, repeat. All the while liberals are excused for years of truly awful tweets, blog posts, and frequent associations with actually-evil people. And these things are happening with the full collusion of the entertainment industry, the vast majority of people in education, and worst of all, the media.  Even the sacred New York Times, supposed to be the gatekeepers of truth and reason and rationality are all-in now, aren’t they? I don’t see how anyone can deny it any more – the media has picked a side. That cannot mean anything good.

So the people defending Sarah Jeong, telling me “move along, there’s nothing to see here”  – again, even people who I like and respect – these people are either liars or they are delusional and I don’t know which option is more terrifying.  But it is TERRIFYING. You are terrifying me, liberals. And scared people circle the wagons. Stop making me circle the wagons because I don’t even LIKE most of the people you are forcing me to circle the wagons with.  You are forcing me to circle the wagons with groups who really are wretched hives of scum and villainy.

And that brings me to my final point.   

One of the main criticisms regarding the public dragging of Sarah Jeong is that the people who dug up the dirt on her were sketchy dudes like Mike Cernovitch and the Gateway Pundit.  They were biased, they were slanted, they hate liberals, they wanted to bring her down. They found out she had gotten hired by the NYT and went out and rummaged through her old tweets looking for filth and they found an ample supply.

That’s pretty creepy, I agree.  Those guys are sleazeballs for sure.  Seems to be happening a lot lately, though, doesn’t it?  Scungy sewer rats going through the ancient dregs of everyone’s online lives trying to find things to damn them with??  I don’t like that trend, not at all, no matter who it happens to.  It’s ugly.

But that’s exactly what happened to Kevin Williamson too.  Because I have a memory that lasts longer than a news cycle, I recall very clearly that there was already a fever pitch of outrage coming from the left BEFORE they had any dirt on the guy.  They were already calling for him to be fired. They were already calling for people to cancel their subscriptions. People WERE canceling their subscriptions. A LOT of people were calling for Kevin Williamson to be fired BEFORE they’d even uncovered his two problematic statements on abortion.  And the liberal equivalents of Cernovitch and Gateway Pundit went and dug up the abortion quotes and off to the races we went.

True story – The Atlantic hired Williamson because they felt that they lacked conservative representation.  Because after getting blindsided when Hillary lost, they were trying to be more inclusive of non-liberal viewpoints (remember how that was a thing for about 5 minutes there?) I think that’s noble and admirable.  But liberals were outraged by that. BEFORE the abortion quote.  They were outraged that The Atlantic hired a conservative who was not a tame lion. They went after the guy till they found something they could get him with and then they got him. Because they could not even tolerate knowing a conservative (internal conservative critic, mind you) held a position on any “respectable” mainstream news magazine.  They drove Kevin Williamson off The Atlantic not because of what he said 2 times 4 years ago but because of who he was, because conservatives are not welcome and conservative thought is not allowed. If they hadn’t gotten rid of him over the abortion stuff, they’d have found something else.  The movement to eliminate Williamson was already well underway when the dumpster divers uncovered the abortion quotes.

Mike Cernovitch and the Gateway Pundit, scumbags though they certainly are, simply responded in kind and looked up Sarah Jeong’s own tweets. Can you even blame them? Why should conservatives be expected to fight with both hands tied behind their backs? Why do liberals get to utilize this type of sleazy tactic but when conservatives do it, it’s different somehow?  The context is that liberals get to do stuff that conservatives don’t and it is not fair. Either it’s ok for everyone or it’s ok for no one. If you say otherwise, hell-LO, you’re a hypocrite.

Look, the “let’s go back and find contextless dirt we can use against everyone we don’t like” crap is like unleashing a fucking Kraken, all right?  It’s a bull in a china shop, it’s using a shotgun to kill a mosquito, it’s getting Bin Laden by nuking Pakistan, it’s like shaving your legs with a flamethrower.  Yeah, maybe you get the guy you’re going after but the fire is gonna get away from you and it’s gonna burn down everything. And now yippee, wahoo, idiots, you’ve torn down the social norms that prevent those dirty trick tactics from being used against YOU.  The argument that the Cernovitch Kraken trying to bring down Jeong is somehow worse than the JessicaValenti Kraken that brought down Kevin Williamson is completely deceptive nonsense and again, just shines this sinister light o’context yet again onto the entire Williamson-Jeong debacle.  

The context matters.  There are two sets of rules, one for conservatives and one for liberals.  Liberals make the rules and enforce the rules, and conservatives are only allowed to have free speech and journalistic freedom within the rules that the liberals create.  Conservatives are second class citizens and liberals think it is right and fair and just that conservatives are second class citizens because conservatives are stoopid dum inbred racist hicks and liberals are sainted highly evolved angels who have only the purest most selfless instincts and can do no wrong. (#cancelwhitepeople #killallmen)

The context matters.  In this system, conservatives should exist at the pleasure of liberals; liberals should get to decide what conservatives get to speak and where they should speak and if you’re a conservative that liberals don’t think should get to have a voice, like Mike Cernovitch (who yeah, probably shouldn’t) or Kevin Williamson (who definitely should), you don’t get one.  Liberals can do what they want and say what they want no matter how hateful or vicious or ugly and conservatives have no recourse. Because when conservatives say anything to call this state of affairs out, they’re called hypocrites or liars or overly sensitive or delusional because liberals like to pretend that this context doesn’t exist.

But the context matters.

 

 

Brigitte Joneses For A Baby

Brigitte Joneses For A Baby

Brigitte Nielsen, a Danish actress best known for co-starring in Rocky 4 (while being briefly married to Sylvester Stallone) recently had a baby.   The interesting thing to most people is that she is 54 years old. The interesting thing to me is that it’s Nielsen’s first daughter after 4 sons.

As one might expect in this social media fish bowl in which we swim, the troglodytes of the Internet feel perfectly entitled to sound off on Nielsen’s decision to bring a child into the world.   She’s too old, they say. The way she conceived is “unnatural” – she had frozen her own eggs over a decade ago and had been trying to conceive with them ever since. She has four children already – adults! – and she should be satisfied with that; asking for more than she already has is greedy.  She will surely die or be infirm and unable to raise the child “properly”. She’s doing this for her own selfish reasons and not for the good of her child.

The reason why I find the maternal longings of a D-list actress of interest is that I too had a girl after 4 boys.  Like Nielsen, my oldest son was an adult when my daughter was born. Like Nielsen, I was in an age group that is considered “too old” – 42, definitely an age many would consider too late to be bringing a new life into the world.  After all, the media likes to drum it into people’s heads again and again…having a baby over 40 is unacceptably perilous for both mother and baby. I am sure that many people thought I was making a terrible selfish decision, although no one ever said it to my face.

They did say other things to my face, though.  While mothers of more than 2 are often criticized, and older mothers are always criticized (it feels that way, anyway), there seems to be a special level of vitriol reserved for women who have sons and still want a daughter, particularly if they have the temerity to try for one.  The very idea that any woman might want to continue having children until she has a particular gender is presented as being borne from some sort of monstrous desire, and worst of all is when a woman wants a daughter. I suppose this is because trying for a son is usually painted as something a woman does for someone else – her husband, her family, her culture – and so a woman trying for a son is seen as selfless, giving, generous.  A woman who admits to wanting a daughter, on the other hand, is either an egomaniac who wants a “mini-me” or a rabid feminist who plans to use her daughter as a political pawn.

But that isn’t reality.  I wanted a daughter in the way I imagine a person who has lived in the mountains their entire life wants to see the ocean.   Not because I was trying to make myself over again or to score social justice points, but because I wanted to see her and know her.  Her, not me. My longing for a daughter had nothing to do with me. It had nothing to do with my sons. I was and am happy with myself and beyond ecstatic with my sons.  I didn’t need a daughter to complete me or to make my family whole.  

I just wanted her.  

It is entirely possible to adore living in the mountains or in the desert and be utterly unable to imagine living anywhere else, but still have a strong desire to see the ocean, to watch the waves break, to know what it’s like to walk in the sand and dabble your toes in the foam.  Some people don’t want to see the ocean and that’s ok. Some have seen it already and didn’t think it was that big a thing, certainly not worth turning their lives upside down for. Others have lived there for years and are used to the view. But others want to see the ocean.  Sometimes a silly little want grows into a longing that takes hold and won’t let go.  That’s how it was for me, wanting a daughter.  It was an experience that I really hoped to have.  I’d dreamt of her since I was a tiny little girl myself.   And I found that I just couldn’t walk away without her, not unless I tried everything in my power to turn my imaginary girl real.

We live in a time of celebrating experience.   People make bucket lists and delight in accumulating life experiences as if they were merit badges.  People take risks and make sacrifices in exchange for experience all the time. Some people climb Mount Everest or go on a safari or skydive.  Some people think smaller and go to Napa Valley to drink too much wine, or to Disneyland, or to see the lights of Broadway. People want things and some of the things people want are not important to anyone but they themselves.  Just like Brigitte, I wanted a daughter for no great or noble reason – I simply wanted her.  Her existence was important to me.  I was willing to take some risks and make some sacrifices for that. My desire for that experience is no more wrong than the person who decides they need to see Paris before they die.

Some would say my desire for an experience does not outweigh my daughter’s need for a young and sprightly mother who can turn cartwheels down steps and will live another 70 years in order to do lots of babysitting for future generations.  But how many of us really have a child in an ideal situation, anyway?? Children are born into situations far worse than Brigitte’s or my daughters’ all the time. Situations of poverty, of abuse, of neglect, in countries torn apart by war, in families torn apart by all manner of terrible things.  Situations in which they are not particularly wanted or not wanted at all. Having a child young is no guarantee of success and having a child older is no guarantee of disaster. My mother had me when she was young but then divorced and started a new family, relegating me to a kind of second-class status within our family (I’m not faulting her, not at all, my parents are wonderful people who raised me well.  My point is simply that youth is no guarantee of a child always getting everything they think they need.)  If our daughters are loved and cared for, and were so hoped for and dreamed about, what difference does it make if we will live another 20 years or another 50?

Because that much is true – the odds are pretty good that Brigitte and I will both live another 20 years at the least, long enough to raise our girls.  Something no one tells you about turning 40 or even 50 is that most of us still have another 20-30 years of good solid living within us, if not more.   Shockingly, my life did not stop when I turned 40 the way women’s magazines had led me to expect that it would. I didn’t crumble into dust and suddenly require a Life Alert button. I still have hopes and dreams and plenty of hours in my day to care for this small entity who has come my way.  Most women in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s are not sick or unhealthy. I am not physically fragile. Even though I have a chronic illness I have ample energy to take care of my children, work full time, and run a household. The joy my daughter and my other children bring me only helps to recharge my batteries at the end of every day.

There are no guarantees, of course, but none of us have a guarantee in life.  If Brigitte and I have provided for our daughter’s futures no matter what life has in store for us, 20 years is really just as good as 50, and if we’re lucky enough to have 30 or 40 instead, even better.  20 years is more than enough time to raise a child to adulthood. Beyond that point, it is your child’s life to do with as they will. Life is a gift we give to them, not a project we are doing that requires us to be hands on every second of every day from now till forever.  No one ever tells a man in his 40’s or even in his 50’s, “don’t start that project, Bill, what happens if you DIE before you finish it?” Are we all supposed to go through our lives never doing anything if we may die before it’s done?  Are 25-year-olds the only people who are allowed to plan for an unknown future?

Children are different, some may say.  Children aren’t a stamp collection or restoring a hot rod or sailing around the world.  Children simply need their mothers.  The expectation for mothers is that we will dedicate the rest of our lives to micromanaging our children’s existence from birth till age 70 at which point we will die and somehow they’ll have to muddle through without us.  But in reality most people are quite competent as young adults and don’t even want their mother meddling in their business when they’re 25, 35, 45. Even at 15, a needy, overly involved mother is an unwelcome thing. NO ONE wants their mother all wrapped up in their lives forever and ever.  Our children don’t need us in perpetuity the way people say that they do. Why would anyone build our lives around an expectation that is silly? Why would we base our decisions on a fiction that our daughters will need us desperately until they are 105 years old?

My hope is that by the time I shuffle off this mortal coil, my daughter will not need me any more.  By that point, I plan for her to be able to stand on her own and take care of herself.  I’ve already gotten her to age 6, and that’s quite an accomplishment. We have had more time together than many mothers and daughters have been fortunate enough to have.  I hope with every fiber of my being to be here till she’s a fully capable adult because I’ve found I love it here at the ocean and I want to watch the waves break for many more years to come.  I want very much to see the woman that she will become and to hold her children in my arms.  But I may not get that wish granted to me, and Brigitte Nielsen may not get that wish granted to her.

Nevertheless, our daughters will still be ok. When people ask “what will happen when you’re old and die and your daughter needs you?” the truth is, death happens even to mothers, even to younger women than me, and in fact it used to happen far more often than it does now.   People muddle through. Mothers are meant to give their children a start in life, not to be here until the conclusion.

I wish Brigitte every happiness with her daughter.

  

           

If Kirk ran Hollywood…

If Kirk ran Hollywood…

 

Sorry, fellow Trekkies, I mean Kirk Cameron, not James T.

What if Kirk Cameron ran Hollywood?

Record scratch.  

What?  Hold up, there!  Kirk Cameron running HOLLYWOOD!?!  That’s like a fate worse than death or something.

I know, right?  But let’s play a little game where Kirk Cameron is somehow made Dictator of Hollywood.   

For those who are not fully up to speed on the illustrious career of Kirk Cameron, he’s the kid actor from Growing Pains that grew up and became super religious, or maybe he was all along, not really sure about the timeline there.  Anyway, he left mainstream acting and now focuses on evangelism and making Christian-themed movies. And more power to him.  This is not a Kirk Cameron bash. I like living in a world where people of varying philosophies and mindsets can provide diverse choices in entertainment.

So let’s imagine a world where Kirk and his Christian compatriots were put in charge of the movies you watch, the tv shows, the music, the books and magazines…pretty much everything comin’ at ya from the squeaky clean mind of Mr. Kirk Cameron.   Call it a thought experiment.

Most people, even many Christians, would agree that would an unpleasant state of affairs.  You’d probably feel supremely bored by the product that Kirk Cameron’s Hollywood churned out, if not actively repressed by it.  Entertainment would likely become mind-numbingly homogenous, representing only the evangelical Christian worldview, promoting only evangelical-approved values.  Kirk’s Hollywood would not feature a wide array of viewpoints and life experiences in their final product. Filmmakers and authors could tell their vanilla-flavored tales a thousand slightly different ways using ever-more-advanced CGI techniques but the audience would be left unentertained, unfulfilled.  

Everything would be mundane and predictable since the same theme was simply echoing over and over again.  And if you were from any culture other than fundamental Christianity, you wouldn’t be able to relate to what was on screen. You’d know in your heart and gut that there were millions of perspectives that were being ignored, billions of stories left untold.   Even if you were from the dominant culture, maybe you’d still want more variety. Maybe you’d thirst for something thought-provoking, something that challenged your preconceptions and taught you something you didn’t know before.  Maybe you’d long for a story that came at you from a slightly different angle, showed you a viewpoint you hadn’t considered, made you think hard about what it means to be a human being. 

But you wouldn’t get it.  The products of Kirk Cameron’s Hollywood would not shed new light on the human condition.  They wouldn’t be art, they would be propaganda.

Over time, you might even come to resent mainstream entertainment. So preachy. So dogmatic. So smug and self-congratulatory.  Even when you agreed with the moral of the story, you would resent the heavyhandedness with which it was told.  Art would no longer be used to criticize, to illustrate absurdities of politics and culture. It would only be used to lecture and chastise and preach to the converted. You’d come to crave realness, authenticity, anything other than more of the same. But it would never stop because Kirk and the friends of Kirk run Hollywood.  Every show, every movie, every book – all Kirk, all the time. There’d be no getting away from it.  Eventually you wouldn’t even be able to read a cooking magazine or watch the sports scores on ESPN without encountering gross proselytizing.   Not even a lowly taco salad recipe would be free of the testifyin’.  Kirk would not approve of anything that did not strictly push his evangelical agenda.

Having even the most positive of messages shoved in your face repeatedly would be irritating for all but rabid zealots.  You’d start finding yourself rolling your eyes at “thou shalt not kill” not because you disagree with the principle but because you’re so. fricking. sick. of it.

A while back I decided I was gonna watch Downton Abbey.  I turned it on and it seemed interesting, I generally like that kind of thing, but I could just tell that somebody was gonna turn out to be gay.  Now, please understand, I’m PRO gay rights. I support gay marriage. I think there should absolutely be more stories told about the specific experience of gay people and more stories where characters are gay and it’s not a plot point or an issue or a big deal, but just because people are gay and art reflects life.  I would watch those movies.  I do not and never would favor Kirk Cameron’s sanitized Hollywood where homosexuality is excised from the human experience. But – and I’m not particularly proud of having done this, but I share in the interest of being forthright – I decided to stop watching the show because it was just so damn distracting.  “Is it going to be those two?  Or those two?  Or maybe even those two?”  It was like watching someone operate off a PC-approved checklist instead of telling a story. I wasn’t offended by the concept, I was BORED by the execution. It was boring waiting for the reveal and even more boring that I could immediately foresee every single plot development that would grow out of the revelation. So predictable that even I, pro gay rights person, roll my eyes at the plot twist. My politics haven’t changed, but I’m. so. fricking. sick. of it.

It’s gone well beyond being beaten over the head by the point.  The point is chasing me around the house as if I’m Jamie Lee Curtis and it’s Michael Myers and the point now wants to stab me to death with itself just to be sure I really, REALLY, get it.

I get it, I promise.  I got it like 35 years ago, dudes.  As soon as I heard about the concept, I got it.  I’m with u. I’m just fricking sick of the same handful of moral points being shouted at me again and again and again.  I’m sick of entertainment feeling less like joy, less like relaxation and more like dodging a flock of Hare Krishnas at an airport.  I don’t want any of your damn pamphlets, please just let me worry about my own soul.

I’m sick of boring greedy amoral businessmen.  I’m sick of boring heroic environmental activists trying to uncover boring pollution.  I’m sick of boring blue collar dads who like sports ignoring their boring nerdy sons until their boring nerdy sons somehow save the day using their nerd abilities.  I’m sick of boring noble women who are held back by the nonsensical sexist machinations of boring inferior male coworkers. I’m sick of boring crooked government agents being brought down by someone getting a super important envelope to a boring crusading reporter.  I’m sick of boring corrupt police officers taking boring bribes and boring corrupt soldiers covering up boring war crimes. I’m sick of boring housewives who feel repressed till they have magic boring sex with some boring dude. I’m sick of boring dudes who feel depressed till they have magic boring sex with some boring manicpixiedreamgirl.  I’m sick of scary boring scientists screwing something up and creating some boring monster or disease that then other boring scientists have to defeat using unscary boring science. I’m sick of boring country people who have boring abusive parents but rise above it by moving to the boring city and embracing boring careers in entertainment or the arts.   And I’m so, so, SO superduperly sick of boring cartoon animals and boring spandexed superheroes as generic stand-ins for some oppressed group, going through the motions of a thinly veiled, boring morality play.

I’M BORED.

It’s all so preachy and dull and predictable.   Even though I AGREE with the overall philosophy, the execution is so heavyhanded and cookiecutterish I can’t even stand to watch it any more.  It’s always the same few stories told from the same perspective, the same good guys and the same bad guys, making the same handful of ethical points again and again, never asking a single new question or sharing even a slightly different perspective.  I always know how the hero’s journey will end and I know every single beat we’ll hit along the way, and I don’t think about the story at all once it’s over. Hell, I don’t even think about the story when I’m watching. No new questions are raised in my mind.  The tales I hear and read and see don’t stick with me. They’re like cotton candy, melting away as soon as they hit my brain, leaving nothing behind but a slight, vague sensation of stickiness and a bad taste in my mouth.

I long for programming that does or says something unexpected and unique, for works of art that inspire me to think about something I haven’t thought about before or that I have thought about before but maybe just not in that particular way.  I need some complexity, complexity of plot, complexity of story, complexity of character, moral complexity; I’m dying for some shades of gray here.

For me, the entertainment industry in 2018 is little different than if Kirk Cameron was put in charge of Hollywood.  Even if you agreed with Kirk in theory…stealing, bad…killing, bad…dishonoring mom and pop, bad…loving thy neighbor, good…there’s just something in human nature that resents being preached to.  There’s something in human nature that resents being preached to constantly still more.  Enough already.  We get it. We got it.  What else d’you got?

Most already know about the “the Code” (aka the Production Code, the Hays Code, a few other incarnations along the way) – a set of moral guidelines that Hollywood studios had to follow in one form or the other, from the 1920’s till well into the 60s, when the last vestiges fell away.  Great movies like Casablanca and Some Like It Hot notoriously ran afoul of the Code. While we look back on the Code today mostly as a Puritanical approach to keeping movies squeaky clean in the sex department, it also encompassed political and moral censorship. Movies couldn’t show criticism towards members of the clergy, police officers, other countries, public figures, and could not depict anyone disrespecting the flag.  They couldn’t show prostitution, homosexuality, interracial relationships, and were never supposed to portray criminals in a sympathetic light. Negative portrayals of race, color, or creed were also forbidden.

Kirk Cameron would probably like the Code.  Honestly, the Code wasn’t entirely wrong; there are elements of the ethics underlying the Code I tend to agree with.  But most of us look back on the entire notion and snort derisively because we can so easily see how a blanket dictum led to movies being overly tame, unrepresentative of our nation’s diversity, and lacking insight into the human condition.  It’s undeniable that the existence of the Code prevented some hard questions from being asked via art. It had a huge chilling effect on what movies could have been, what stories might have been told, what truths may have been revealed. You can see it in the movies produced in the late 50’s to early 60’s, as the Code fell apart – the quality of the storytelling grew exponentially. 

If a movie can’t show a guy doing drugs, you can’t portray the harm drug use caused or the ripple effect that it had on his entire life as Preminger did in The Man With the Golden Arm (1955).  If you can’t show extramarital sex, Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (1960) wouldn’t have had much of a plot. Even though there are many wonderful movies from the 30’s, 40’s, and early 50’s (many of which challenged the dictums of the Code) it’s clear that the death of the Code improved movies as an art form.  I can’t help but wonder how many secret truths we will never know about the way people of that era really lived and thought and felt because the Code didn’t allow their stories to be told.

And yet we’ve now fallen into our own version of the Code; it may not be formally codified but it exists all the same.  It is simply not allowed to make movies, television shows, or yes, sadly, even books anymore, in which certain moral viewpoints are expressed.  Even briefly, even if you are not advocating them, even if you have a higher purpose for doing so.  Even if you are showing those moral viewpoints only to damn them. Even if their inclusion was germane to the plot and was (or at least attempting to be) thought provoking, challenging, and artistic, the risks of censure are so high that most writers, directors, and actors don’t even take the chance.  Too much is at stake. 

Many people believe that the heyday of movie making was the late 60’s to early 70’s.  The Code was no more, but political correctness had not yet taken hold. Some of the greatest movies ever made were produced during that time period – movies that asked hard questions about real issues, movies that portrayed human beings as flawed beings rather than angels or demons.  I’d like to return to that time again, because I value art and I value storytelling.

But mostly because I’m bored.  I don’t want Kirk Cameron in charge of Hollywood.  I don’t want the liberal equivalent of Kirk Cameron in charge of Hollywood either.  I want artists in charge of Hollywood. And art is messy and imperfect and sometimes makes people uncomfortable.  Art is not made by consensus, committee, or focus group; it’s made by individuals that sometimes will get things wrong – ethically wrong.  But art may reveal more in its wrongness than a perfect and pure religious allegory ever could. Art asks questions polite people may not want to even consider and pushes envelopes right off the edge of the desk sometimes. Art should not tell people what they want to hear a thousand slightly different ways using ever-more-advanced CGI techniques to avoid ruffling anyone’s feathers.  Art is SUPPOSED to ruffle feathers.

Telling people that what they believe is unequivocally right again and again (even when what they believe is true and just and good) is not art, it’s propaganda.